Child care funding will be key
Monday 11th March 2013, 3:35PM GMT.
FOR many families, child care is a massive issue. Without it, mum cannot work. And without that wage coming in, rents or mortgages cannot be met.
This relentless drive to pay bills means that many mothers return to work before they or their children are really ready and it can place hard-to-resist obligations on grandparents, family and friends to look after little one.
Employers, too, feel the pinch as the high cost of child care either deters women from going back to work or else leads to complications when dealing with illness or the days when pre-school isn’t an option.
The Education Department’s desire to make it easier for all families to access it, however, is not limited to cost. There is a huge body of evidence indicating that children benefit from early learning and that the benefits last years.
As the minister said last week, Guernsey is somewhat behind in this regard and his board intend putting a full package of proposals to islanders before the end of this year.
Parents – and grandparents, although many would not say it aloud – will be relieved when it becomes a reality, years after it was first mooted.
Clearly, then, the initiative is to be welcomed and should bear fruit very quickly. What will be crucial, however, is how this is to be funded.
The last estimate from the department was £1.7m., which equates to about £40 per taxpayer, although the minister believes a voucher scheme could make it cheaper.
Nevertheless, unless the cash is coming from the department’s own budget, it will face an uphill struggle getting it through the States at the current time when the financial transformation programme is seeking to hold spending in real terms.
Education itself has asked for extra time to make the FTP savings that it has committed to but is struggling to deliver.
In other words, it is very aware of the financial pressures that it is under and that new money for new initiatives is unlikely to be forthcoming.
In these circumstances, the question other States members are asking is what will Education cut to pay for pre-schooling and which primary school will close.
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